Victory at Lands’ End: Are Conservatives Learning How to Win the Left’s Game?
Conservatives may actually be voting with their dollars — the ultimate pressure point for every corporation.
Liberals have long understood corporations’ pressure points; it’s hardly a surprise when outrage politics cows a billion-dollar company leading to public mea culpas and, in some cases, resignations. But recent developments appear to indicate that the so-called silent majority may actually be a financial force that can hold companies accountable.
Last Monday’s resignation of Lands’ End CEO Federica Marchionni appears to conclude a bizarre attempt to celebrate a company’s ethos by aligning with social activism. Marchionni, introduced a new “Legends Series” feature in the spring edition of the iconic Lands’ End catalog with an interview of Gloria Steinem as “(someone who) made a difference.” The interview also launched an initiative to fund an organization related to Steinem by passing along a portion of the monogramming fees from any item ordered with Steinem’s ERA Coalition logo.
Mark Cohen, the former CEO of Sears Canada pointed out the gravity of this misstep: “You don’t inject… the social conscience of Gloria Steinem into a mainstream brand like Lands’ End without running a real risk of brand abuse.”
We would add this is especially true when your business is known for supplying uniforms to private schools, of which many are faith-based.
Several schools did cancel accounts and the Steinem interview, along with any links to the fundraising initiative, disappeared from the company’s website. It appears Marchionni never recovered as Lands’ End stock prices tumbled in the late spring, weeks after the controversy.
While Lands’ End struggled through the summer months, Target, the nation’s second-largest discount retailer, was also taking a beating on the heels of a March announcement that promoted an all-comers bathroom and changing room policy, essentially a nod of solidarity with the current policy goals of liberal LGBT activists. Even though the retailer has stubbornly defended its decision, business has struggled amidst lagging sales. In fact, Target announced the departure of its e-commerce director just last Friday.
But the August announcement of a $20 million plan to install family friendly, single-stall bathroom facilities indicates Target might be cracking. The “accommodating” gesture without retraction probably won’t win back the 1.42 million who signed the American Family Association’s boycott pledge. We also don’t expect a corporate policy reversal given Target’s partnership with liberal organizations like Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT advocates spearheading the movement behind measures that have led to the so-called “bathroom bill” controversies in cities like Charlotte and Houston.
However, the developments with Target, and Lands’ End for that matter, indicate that conservatives may actually be voting with their dollars, the ultimate pressure point for every corporation.
H/T Dustin Siggins
Lance Wray is the Executive Director of 2ndVote, the conservative watchdog for corporate activism. Learn more at 2ndVote.com.